Couple in recovery helps Rescue Mission mark 125th

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By Sean Barron


If anyone exemplifies what officials with the Rescue Mission of the Mahoning Valley say are primary goals for clients, it likely would be Randy and Jessica Skelton.

“This place helped facilitate amazing changes in our lives,” said Jessica, who came to the mission with her husband of seven years last summer from Cleveland, Tenn., is in a 12-step recovery program and is studying to be a state-tested nurse’s aide.

In addition, Jessica and Randy will be graduating in early March from the mission’s discipleship programs, she said.

The couple spoke of their efforts to make changes in their lives, as well as their successes, during a two-hour open house Thursday afternoon at the facility, 962 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., downtown.

The gathering, called “One Twenty-Five,” was to celebrate the mission’s 125th anniversary and to showcase its services, ministerial and other programs and community collaborations.

Conducting part of an extensive tour through the Mahoning Valley’s sole emergency shelter was Ron Starcher, human-resources associate, who explained that between about 1930 and 1971, the building had been a segregated YMCA for black people.

Starcher also outlined several rules for and expectations of clients, saying those who stay for an extended time are required to look for employment and participate in offerings including a nine-month discipleship program for men and a comparable one for women.

Those with an income are to save 50 percent of it in exchange for their stay, he explained, to aid in their successful transition once they leave the mission.

Some clients are staying while looking for housing, though they often face long waiting lists, Starcher said.

No one in need is turned away. The only people not allowed in the building are those on a “Do-not-admit” list because of behavior problems or infractions they committed, he said.

Clients also have an opportunity to earn a two-year online associate’s degree in human development as part of the mission’s adult professional studies program, which is a partnership between the mission and San Diego Christian College, said Starcher, who noted the facility typically has about 120 people on any given night. Twenty-three children, some of whom attend Youngstown schools, are there now, he added.

The tour included an area with semiprivate rooms, a space for a family of seven, rooms for mothers with young children and a room for a married couple.

Luann Winters, the family-services unit manager, said that section has 64 beds, along with a day room for children to play. Those clients also have access to a small kitchen and laundry facilities, she told those on the tour.

Starcher also provided an update on the one-story, 30,000-square-foot Rescue Mission that’s being built at Erie Street and Delason Avenue on the South Side. Efforts continue to raise $1.5 million for the facility, and it is hoped ground will be broken this year, he noted.

“One of the huge things we do here is biblical instruction, because we believe change has to come from inside out,” Starcher added. “We don’t want to put new clothes on the person; we want to put a new person in the clothes.”

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